Sri Sri Ravishankarji is a highly revered spiritual leader. The Art of Living Foundation ( AOL ) headed by him has been doing outstanding services to people in numerous countries in all continents. Sri Sri Ravishankarji has been held in high esteem by world leaders irrespective of their ideological orientations. Recently AOL organized a three-day mega cultural festival at the banks of river Yamuna. Prime Minister described it as the Kumbha Mela of Culture. True .As Indians we are proud of Sri Sri for organising such a great global festival of cultural extravaganza.
But that is the fair side of Sri Sri's contribution. The other side is ugly. At the event site of the cultural festival, the Yamuna flood plains were flattened and vegetation removed. Environmentalists believe that the ecological damage may take years to repair. One of the main functions of the flood plains is ground water recharge . Having now been flattened, the area's recharge capacity could deteriorate considerably. The Yamuna is more likely to flood its banks. There were many violations of Green Laws. And justifiably the National Green Tribunal passed strictures and fined AOL ₹ 5 crore, without upsetting the festival.
Strangely, the usually sedate Sri Sri reacted like a politician. He said "I would rather go to jail, rather than paying the fine" He also made certain avoidable references to the NGT order. He behaved as if he was above the law. The NGT chided Sri Sri and observed that it did not expect a person of his eminence to make such statements. Finally AOL paid the first instalment of ₹ 25 lakh fine before the deadline and sought permission for deferred payment ,which the NGT agreed. This was indeed an anti-climax.
Recently Sri Sri observed that the just concluded cultural festival indicates that India is capable of organising even Olympics or FIFA games. True Sri Sriji. But when China organised the Olympics millions became homeless . We hope Sri Sri would not like that to be repeated in India in the name of culture or sports. Ultimately Swamiji ! spirituality and sustainability should move hand in hand.
Rtd. Professor of Social Work,
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